Nastia Barkan: Day-to-Day Manager at Friends At Work
Introduce yourself to us! What do you do in the industry? Where are you from?
Hi! I’m Nastia Barkan, I work as Charlie Puth’s day-to-day manager at music management and social impact company Friends At Work. Originally from London, I moved to Los Angeles for college before diving head first into the music industry.
How did you get your start in the industry?
I started out as an intern at a high-profile management company in LA while I was in college. There I got to learn the ropes across management, working on projects for Pharrell Williams, Swedish House Mafia, The Backstreet Boys and Charlie Puth to name a few. I also did some work for a London based company they were in partnership with while I was back home, predominantly working on touring for international DJ acts like Sigma and Steve Lawler. I did that for close to two years before becoming Charlie’s day-to-day.
When did you know being in the business is what you wanted to do? Was there a specific moment where you were like “oh god, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life”?
Music has always been the one thing that soothes my mind and soul, so I think subconsciously I always knew I’d end up in this industry. In terms of a lightbulb moment, I want to say it must have been when I went to Coachella in 2016. I’d had a pretty rubbish few months in life in general and it was a “turning point” for me. I was walking around the grounds when I realised I was actually happy for the first time in a long time. That’s such a painfully cliché thing to say but it’s really true. I was just…happy.
I always hoped I would have a job I really loved doing so when I was walking around the festival finally feeling happy, it made me think “you love going to shows, you spend 75% of your time with headphones in (and now have tinnitus, so don’t do that kids), you need to work in music.” Four months later I was accepted into the Music Industry Program at USC, which is sort of where it all started.
Is there anything you struggled with (or even still do struggle with) being in the industry?
Turning off. I will be at a dinner or out with friends and by default start responding to emails that come in, even if they aren’t urgent. I really like working though so I wouldn’t even necessarily view it as something I struggle with, just something I am aware I do that long term may not be the healthiest!
What is the best part of your job? Why?
Knowing you play a part in impacting people’s lives. That’s what makes an art form, specifically music, so special; it has the ability to touch so many different people in so many different ways. That can be the way a song that’s released makes them feel or how it helps them through a tough time, the experience they have at a show we put on, the story a music video tells… anything really. Having a hand in something so wide reaching and seeing positive reactions is really really special.
Is there someone who you consider as your mentor in the industry?
Mikaela Puth. I wouldn’t be here without her. She was really who gave me my chance and believed in me enough to trust me as Charlie’s day-to-day. Ty Stiklorius, the CEO and founder of Friends At Work continues to be a huge source of inspiration to me as well, I am extremely fortunate to have these amazing strong women in my corner.
You are Charlie Puth’s day-to-day manager, what is that like?
Busy! No two days are the same, which is what I like about my job. I have to constantly stay organised and be aware of everything that is going on in Charlie’s world. I was always the mum of my friend group, handled all the flights and hotel bookings, would herd everyone into taxis and make sure they had their passports, which prepared me pretty well for music management, actually. Charlie is amazing to work alongside, so truthfully, often my job doesn’t even feel like work.
What advice do you have for women who want to get their start in the music industry?
Be persistent. Getting your foot in the door is tricky to say the least, but carefully weigh out your options and whatever you decide to go with work hard at it. Find someone who supports and believes in you; there will be no shortage of people who won’t see your potential or who don’t believe in you, so it’s important to find the people that do; people that want to give you opportunity and who want to see you learn and excel.
Have you ever been turned down or not taken seriously because you were a female in the industry? What did you do when put into that position?
I think most women have a similar answer to this; yes. I’ve definitely found myself in situations where people were dismissive or talked down to me because I am a woman, but I’ve learned not to take a lot of notice of it or let it impact the way I work. It’s noted mentally of course, but beyond that and the initial wave of frustration that washes over me when it happens, I don’t let it affect me. I’m a big believer in karma and the idea that what goes around comes around, sooner rather than later, as well.
What are some of your other hobbies? What do you do in your free time?
I love going to the beach or walking through the hills. I love travelling as well and dinners with friends. Good drinks, good people, good vibes, good conversations.
Who is your all-time favorite artist?
Well the running joke is Pitbull… which isn’t really a joke at all because I am a huge fan of his. But actual all-time favourite, Avicii; I got “we won’t fade into darkness” tattooed on my left arm the day he passed away.
How do you balance work and life with being in such a non-stop industry?
Taking advantage of the moments when I have time. If there’s a lull in the day, that’s the time I use to FaceTime my family or catch up with friends. Of course there are moments when I’ll get an email at 10pm and I’ll want to scream internally, but for the most part I’m just used to working on the go and making time for myself when there’s an opening, or juggling a few things at once. I’ve learned to be very flexible which helps a lot.
What is something you can't live without
Uber/Lyft. I don’t know how to drive!
Go-to Karaoke song?
“Where Do Broken Hearts Go” by One Direction.
Tea or Coffee?
Coffee! I drink at least 4 espressos a day…
First concert you went to?
Miley Cyrus at the O2 Arena in London in 2009. It was during the Party In The USA era and I took 4 of my friends for my birthday. It was actually supposed to be Aerosmith at Hard Rock Calling in Hyde Park with my dad in 2008, but I think I had exams at school the next day so we gave our tickets to friends. We made up for it in 2014!
What’s something that you always have on you?
Face powder and lip balm in my daily life. Charlie’s in ears when we are on the road.
Who is your dream artist or band to work with?
Machine Gun Kelly or Lana Del Rey at the moment, it changes all the time though!
What does a typical day at work look like for you?
It depends on where we are in the cycle of things or what we have going on that week. I had a pretty great structure going on when we were doing promo pre-pandemic; I would wake up and watch the sunrise in whatever city I was in that day, take a walk around while answering emails and reviewing the agenda for the day before making sure everyone else was good to go. Now it is usually a 7/7.30am wake up, checking on emails that have come in over night and bouncing between calls, meetings and any pieces we need to get done in person before the day winds down around 6/7pm. Then there’s other days where we have specific things we are getting done; running a music video/photo shoot or branding project shoot on Charlie’s end, advancing an upcoming performance, coming up with budgets etc. I wanted a job that was not monotonous, and that is exactly what I got!
Where do you see yourself in five years?
That’s a tough question to answer. I truthfully didn’t expect to be where I am now, so I don’t think I can predict where I see myself in five years. Hopefully still working on team Charlie, maybe managing or co-managing a few other acts in addition. I always thought I wanted to work in the realm of electronic music, so getting to go back to working in that world might be on the cards at some point. I truly am so happy with where I am at the moment though, I get to work with someone who is unbelievably talented and a team that is an inspiration to be around, I just want to take the ride for what it is for the time being and see where I end up.
What do you hope to see done in the industry within the next few years?
I would like to see songwriters being paid what they deserve. Streaming has changed the landscape of the consumption of music so much and songwriters are very much underpaid when it comes to royalties when you consider their role in the creation of a song. There’s a heavy debate going on about this right now, but the bottom line in my opinion is that the structure of payments is outdated given the way the industry has evolved in the past ten years.
What are you most proud of?
My tenacity. I don’t give up very easily which is a good trait to have in management.
Lastly, what saying do you live by?
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that it’s never over, it’s only just beginning” which is a Naomi Clark line from the classic CW 90210 re-boot haha.